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Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child's Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days

Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child's Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days

3.5 91
by Kevin Leman

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Popular psychologist shows parents how to reverse negative behaviors in children—fast—with encouragement and wit. Abridged, 4 CDs, read by Wayne Shepherd.


Popular psychologist shows parents how to reverse negative behaviors in children—fast—with encouragement and wit. Abridged, 4 CDs, read by Wayne Shepherd.

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Baker Publishing Group
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6.10(w) x 5.10(h) x 0.60(d)

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Have a New Kid by Friday How to Change Your Child's Attitude, Behavior and Character in 5 Days
By Kevin Leman
Baker Publishing Group Copyright © 2008 Kevin Leman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8007-1902-9

Chapter One Monday

Where Did They All Come From?

Why do your kids do what they do ... and continue to do it? Your response has a lot to do with it.

Four-year-old Matthew was in a bad mood. His mom could tell that as soon as she picked him up from preschool. All he wanted to do was argue with her. Then he delivered the vehement kicker from the backseat as they drove home: "I hate you!"

If you were his parent, how would you respond?

You could:

1. Let the kid have it with a tongue-lashing of your own.

2. Ignore the kid and pretend he doesn't exist.

3. Try something new and revolutionary that would nip this kind of behavior in the bud ... for good.

Which option would you prefer?

If you responded with a tongue-lashing of your own, both of you would leave that car feeling ugly and out of sorts. And what would be solved in the long run? You'd feel terrible the rest of the day. Your son would go to his room and sulk. One or both of you would eventually end up apologizing (probably you first, since your parental guilt would reign; then, because you would feel bad for losing your temper, you'd probably end up liberally dosing the child with treats).

If you ignored the kid and pretended he didn't exist, it might work for a while-until he needed something from you. With a 4-year-old, that lasts about 4.9 seconds since there are so many things he can't reach in the house (like the milk in the refrigerator on the top shelf). The problem is, if you don't address the behavior, you'll spend the rest of your day steaming under the surface ... and kicking the dog.

This mom decided to go out on a limb and do something revolutionary. She was very nervous; she wondered if it would really work. She'd read all the discipline books and tried so many methods. None of the other techniques had worked. And Matthew was ... well, getting to be a brat. She couldn't believe she was actually thinking that about her own child, but it was true.

She sighed. Desperate times call for desperate measures. But this new technique she'd heard about made so much sense. It had worked for three of her girlfriends. They said all it required was her standing up and being a parent, using consistency and follow-through in her own actions, and not backing down. She knew that would be the hardest part. She was a wuss when it came to Matthew. When he turned those big, blue, teary eyes on her, he always got what he wanted.

But today things were changing, she determined. She was going to give this new method her best effort. She had to do something. Matthew was driving her crazy. Just last week he'd thrown a temper tantrum in the mall; he'd bitten the neighbor girl when she wouldn't give him a toy of hers that he wanted; and the preschool had told her she needed to do something about Matthew's aggressive behavior toward his classmates.

Once she and Matthew got in the house, she didn't say a word. She went about her business, putting away the shopping bags from the car. After a few minutes, Matthew wandered into the kitchen. Usually chocolate chip cookies and milk awaited him there. It was his routine after-preschool snack.

"Mommy, where are my cookies and milk?" he asked, looking at the usual place on the kitchen counter.

"We're not having cookies and milk today," she said matter-of-factly. Then she turned her back on the child she'd pushed 11 1/2 hours for and walked into another room.

Did Matthew say to himself, Well, I guess I'll have to do without that today? No, because children are creatures of habit. So what did Matthew do? He followed his mother to the next room.

"Mommy, I don't understand. We always have cookies and milk after preschool."

Mom looked him in the eye and said, "Mommy doesn't feel like getting you cookies and milk today." She turned and walked into another room.

By now, Matthew was like an NFL quarterback on Sunday afternoon-scrambling to get to the goal. He followed his mom into the next room. "But, Mommy, this has never happened before." There was panic in his voice. He was starting to tremble. "I don't understand."

Mom now knew that Matthew was ready to hear what she had to say. It was the teachable moment: the moment when reality enters the picture and makes an impact on the child's mind and heart. It's the time when a parent has to give her child the straight skinny.

"We are not having milk and cookies today because Mommy doesn't like the way you talked to me in the car." Again, Mom turned to walk away.

But before she took three steps, Matthew had a giant meltdown. He ran toward his mother and grabbed her leg (after all, he is part of the ankle-biter battalion). He was crying profusely. "I'm sorry, Mommy! I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."

Time for another wonderful opportunity. The mom accepted Matthew's apology, gave him a hug, and reminded him that she loved him. She also told him how she felt when he talked to her like that. Three minutes later, things were patched up, and she let Matthew out of her embrace. She began again to go about her work.

What did she hear next from Matthew? "Mommy, can I have my milk and cookies now?"

It was the moment she feared. She steeled her courage and said calmly, "Honey, I told you no. We are not going to have milk and cookies today."

Matthew was stunned. He opened his mouth to argue, then walked away sadly.

Let me ask you: will that little boy think next time before he disses his mother?

Why Little Buford Misbehaves ... and Gets Away with It

Why is it these days that so many children tend to diss their parents, to act disrespectfully? Why are so many parents caught in the roles of threatening and cajoling and never getting anywhere? What's going on here?

Kids do what they do because they've gotten away with it!

It all comes down to who is really in charge of your family. Is it you or your child? Today's parents often don't act like parents. They are so concerned about being their child's friend, about not wounding their child's psyche, about making sure their child is happy and successful, that they fail in their most important role: to be a parent. They snowplow their child's road in life, smoothing all the bumps so the child never has to be uncomfortable or go out of her way. Why should she? She's used to having things done for her. Mom and Dad have become mere servants, doing the whims of the children, rather than parents, who have the child's long-term best in mind.

Parents today are also great excuse makers, and they tend to put themselves in blame positions-"I couldn't get her homework done because I had a business dinner"-rather than calling a spade a spade: "My daughter didn't get her homework done because she was too lazy to do it." They spend more time warning and reminding than they do training.

As a result, today's kids are growing more and more powerful. They're all about "me, me, me" and "gimme." They are held accountable less and less and have fewer responsibilities in the family. To them, family is about not what you can give but what you can get. Fewer children today consider others before themselves because they've never been taught to think that way.

Every child is a smart little sucker, and he has a predictable strategy. In the daily trial-and-error game designed to get the best of you, he's motivated to win because then you'll do anything he says. That means if he tries something, and it works, he'll try it again. But he'll ramp up the efforts a little. Instead of simply crying when he doesn't get his treat, he'll add a little kicking too. If slamming the door causes you to go trotting after your teenage daughter to hand over the car keys like she wanted, she'll be more dramatic the next time she wants them. Children are masters at manipulation. Don't think they're not manipulating you.

That's why your child's behavior has everything to do with you. If you allow your child to win, your child's smart enough to try the behavior again next time. Have a New Kid by Friday is designed to give you a whole arsenal of tools to use without shooting your kid down. But it'll also accomplish something else if you follow the principles: it'll help you be the kind of parent you want to be so you can have the kind of child you want.

These principles work with 4-year-olds, 14-year-olds, and even CEOs of million-dollar companies. Just try them and watch them work. The basic principles may seem hard-edged, and some of you may be squeamish at first. But you came to this book because you want to see changes in your home, and you want to see them fast. Well, I'm that kind of guy. If you want me to hold your hand for 11/2 years while you talk through all your problems over and over but don't really want to do anything to change them, you've got the wrong guy. But if you want to face life square on and do things differently for your entire family's welfare, you've got the right guy. People are astonished at the changes that happen in their homes in just 5 days. Teens have gone from mouthy and rebellious to quiet, respectful, and helpful. Screaming, tantrum-throwing toddlers are now saying "please" and "thank you."

So give this book a chance. Think about where you'd like to be. I can help you get there.

Attention, Please

Did you know that everything your child does is for a reason? This is called in psychologist speak, thanks to Dr. Alfred Adler, the "purposive nature of the behavior." When your child misbehaves, he's doing it to get your attention. All children are attention getters. If your child can't get your attention in positive ways, he'll go after your attention in negative ways. That's because a child's private logic (the inner dialogue that tells him who and what he is and will inform his entire life) is being formed right now. And children naturally think, I only count when people notice me or when other people are serving me. I only count when I dominate, control, and win.

Here's the good news: what children learn, they can unlearn. Author Anne Ortlund has said, "Children are like wet cement-moldable and impressionable," and she couldn't be more right. Children are malleable-up to a point. But as they grow, their "cement" hardens. That's why the earlier you can start addressing your child's Attitude, Behavior, and Character, the better. (More on this in the "Tuesday" chapter.)

The problem with training is that it takes time, and parents today don't have time and don't make time. Some kids spend most of their days in what I call "kiddy kennels" (day care), then they spend their late afternoon and evening time in multiple programs: gymnastics, choir, baseball, etc.

When I used to teach at the University of Arizona, I worked with classes of 300 students-including graduate students, medical doctors, and nurses-in an auditorium. I'd bring in families and problem solve with them. Then I'd ask the students basic questions:

1. How do you think this child learned his behavior?

2. Why is he misbehaving?

3. What are the parents doing about it now? Why doesn't this work?

4. How did the parents say they feel about this behavior?

5. At what level is this child's behavior-stage 1 (attention getting) or stage 2 (revenge)?

6. What do you think these parents should do?

One family who was struggling with the behavior of their son told me all the activities he was involved in. Other than school, that young man had something every single night of the week, and he was only 10! My advice to the parents was, "Cut the extracurricular activities. All of them. Instead of taking your son to counseling, stay home and spend time together. The behavior you are seeing is because your son wants and needs your attention. He's desperate for your attention. And no coach is going to replace the role you have as parents in the life of your child."

When your child is acting up or acting out, what is he really saying? "Pay attention to me, please!"

If you don't pay attention to your child in the right way (we'll talk more about that in the "Thursday" chapter), your child ups the ante to the next level: revenge. "I feel hurt by life, so I have a right to strike out at others, including you." If your child is at this level, you really need this book. Many children who proceed to the revenge stage are headed toward the beginning of a rap sheet.

Power Struggles

When you choose to do battle with your children, you'll never win. You have much more to lose than they do. Your teenage daughter couldn't care less if her shirt is too tight, but you care, and she knows it. So what is she implying as she flounces down the stairs, dramatically crosses the kitchen, and bounces out of the door with a backward look? "I dare you to say anything!"

You'll never win in a power struggle, so don't go there. Instead I'll teach you a different way, a better way. A way in which you can establish your authority in the home.

Creatures of Habit

There was a classic study done in which researchers conditioned pigeons to peck 3 times in order to receive their reward, a pellet of food. Then, after the birds were trained, the researchers changed the reinforcement schedule. Birds got a pellet every 97 pecks, then every 140 pecks, then every 14 pecks. Those pigeons were so confused, they didn't know what to do. They had learned their behavior so well that they continued, day after day, to peck 3 times to get their food.

Children, like pigeons, are creatures of habit. If you don't believe that statement, just try leaving out one thing in your bedtime routine as you're tucking your child in. Listen to what happens: "Uh, Mommy, you forgot to rub my cheek. You always rub my cheek." Remember Matthew, who was used to the routine of milk and cookies after preschool? It was only when his routine was broken that he was ready to listen to his mother and learn to behave differently.

Children learn a behavior, then keep pecking at it to get their reward. That's why those of you who have younger children will have an easier time-your pigeons have had less time to peck for the reward. If you have a child 12 years old or older, he has had a lot more time to peck for those pellets. It will require more effort on your part. But you can still do it by Friday if you stick to your guns. If you want your child to be responsible, I'll show you how to get there. If you want him to be teachable and listen, I'll show you how to get there. It's what you both deserve.

So how do you effect change in your relationship with your child? You retrain your pigeon. You use consistency and follow-through to make your point, never wavering from the goal.

How Does It Work?

Let's say your child wants McDonald's at the mall, but you don't have money for McDonald's. He pitches an all-out flailing temper tantrum, and you're terribly embarrassed. What do you do?

"Mark, we're not getting McDonald's."

Then you turn your back on your child and walk away.

"But, Dr. Leman, wait right there," some of you are saying. "You don't mean you should leave a 6-year-old alone at a mall, do you? How could you just walk away?"

Ah, but here's the key. Your child doesn't want you to go away. He won't allow you to get very far. He just wants to do battle with you. He wants to win.

As soon as that child takes a look at your retreating back in the crowd, all of a sudden his fit isn't so fun anymore. Winning the battle isn't so important anymore. Finding and following Mommy-his safety zone-is.

Let's say you see your 3-year-old purposefully knock over his 18-month-old sister, who's just learning how to walk. Are you angry? Of course. That was downright mean, and you're not going to stand for it. Not to mention the fact that 18-month-old Caroline is now crying. But first you take a breath and think through your strategy. Then you call Andy over to you.

"Andy, do you need some attention today? If you need a hug, all you have to do is say so. Just come on over and ask me for a hug. You don't have to push your sister over to get it. That kind of behavior is not acceptable."

You took the fun out of that behavior by naming the purposive nature of the behavior for the child. By doing so, the child knows that you know exactly what happened and why he did what he did. You're the one in control, not him. He doesn't have a reason to do it the next time.

Let's say your teenager throws you some choice words because you're having chicken for dinner-again-and she says she hates chicken (even though a week ago she asked to have it). When it's time for her to go to Miranda's to "study," you say, "We're not going to Miranda's." Then you turn your back, walk away into the next room, and start folding clothes.

Just like that 4-year-old who wanted his milk and cookies, your 14-year-old will pursue you. "What do you mean we're not going to Miranda's? You always take me to Miranda's on Tuesdays."


Excerpted from Have a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Leman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known psychologist, radio and television personality, and speaker who has taught and entertained audiences worldwide with his wit and commonsense psychology. He has made house calls for hundreds of radio and television programs, such as Fox & Friends, The View, Fox's The Morning Show, Today, Dr. Bill Bennett's America in the Morning, 700 Club, CBS This Morning, James Robison's Life Today, Janet Parshall, CNN's American Morning, and Focus on the Family, and has served as a contributing family psychologist to Good Morning America.

A bestselling and award-winning author, Dr. Leman has written more than 50 books about marriage and family issues, including The Birth Order Book, Sheet Music, Making Children Mind without Losing Yours, and Have a New Kid by Friday. He is coauthor, with his son Kevin Leman II, of a series of illustrated children's books for each child in the family. He is also featured on 6 video series on marriage, parenting, blended families, and single parenting.

Dr. Leman and his wife, Sande, live in Tucson, Arizona. They have five children and four grandchildren.

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Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change Your Child's Attitude, Behavior & Character in 5 Days 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 91 reviews.
DreaB1025 More than 1 year ago
I am of fan of Dr. Leman's work and have read (and own) a number of his books. A friend recommended this one to me and I am very glad I read it! It is practical, written in way that is easy to read and understand and, most importantly, the tips are VERY easy to implement. While I don't have "problem" children I was concerned with my 3-year-olds new attitude and at a loss about how to deal with it. I did not want to be the kind of parent who yells all day long and goes to bed feeling burnt out and unproductive. After reading this I feel like I am better able to control how I respond to situations at home rather than react to them. It has given me great peace of mind! The only negatives, for me, are in the formatting of the nookbook. Text is repeated unnecessarily in italics and often again in the middle of other sentences making it tedious and hard to understand at times. Example, on page 20: "Mom looked him in the eye and said, 'Mommy doesn't feel like Mom looked him in the eye and said, 'Mommy getting you cookies and milk today." Um, what? It happens often and makes reading a frustrating experience. I honestly wish I had just bought a hard copy of this book.
Christina Monette More than 1 year ago
My son was diagnosed with tourettes syndrome. Not an easy child, was told to read the explosive child. I was begining to lose my mind with trying to figure out the best way to help him, and help my husband and I deal with his behavior. Well my husband and I both read the book, and we are on day three. Oh my god my child is not only not exploding, but he can not help me enough and he speaks to me like an angel. The first day was Very hard, He lost the t.v. and finally went to bed 2hours early. I followed all the steps remained calm, and walked away. Today he told me I am the best mom in the world, did the dishes, wouldn't let me pick up his coloring stuff when he was finished, he said,'no mom I want to pick it up.' Everytime I have said no, I get ok mommy. Are you kidding? you will not regret this book. The author is right, I almost want him to mess with me, bring it on I'm ready! oh and my son is seven.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
very easy read..got me started quicker..haven't applied up to Friday yet but say it once and walk away sure is working! ..amazing how they really do hear you speak in a normal tone of voice.. simple steps & common sense we as parents either forget or become lazy about because giving in is easier than the battles
pattyj2010 More than 1 year ago
This was definitely an eye opener and it really sheds light to what we were doing wrong. Simple techniques to incorporate to your own parenting preferences. Really wish I had this book 3 years ago. The book has comical examples to really keep you from putting the book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a great help to me. I think I had become a little bit of a push-over, and my younger daughter was testing me. The book gave great steps to follow which are not difficult. You just have to be consistent! I would definitely recommend this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Parents, save your sanity and get this book. It's beginning to change our family. The children are learning the first tip, and they're becoming more cooperative. Its really about training the parent to react correctly, which in turn changes the child's behavior. It's a win win for everyone! Be sure to read Dr. Leman's opinion on ADHD. I think he's correct.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The kids bedtime routine is written down and posted and they've been great about sticking to it. The "say it and walk away" philosophy has worked for the most part as well as paying other family members to do a job for the unwilling. However, 2 weeks of "do your homework" and walking away from the situation, proved to be the worst remedy for getting my son to do his homework because he didn't do it at home, and his teacher was tired of keeping him in during recess. So, we're back to setting time limits on when homework needs to be done by.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book sounds too good to be true, but it works. You have to have an open mind and admit that YOU are part of the problem...but Dr. Leman points that out by using examples of things that have happened to actual parents. You close the book knowing that you are not alone and that you are not a bad parent, and by changing a few things you will change your child - and yourself! It is life changing to say the least!
MJV More than 1 year ago
More applicable for younger children
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with most of the concrete suggestions in this book, and practiced many by chance in former years. Since then, my husband got cancer and I became a disabled caregiver for nearly a decade. I learned that some single mothers are sickly widows, or abandoned mothers trying to make it through exhausting days... By the teen years, kids have been influenced by public schools and whoever they meet there for over 10 years. The schools often instill a permissive attitude in kids from the start by suggesting that parents are blameworthy,and then offering condoms or even abortion without the parent being involved. The tips in this book MAY help, but if they do not give you a "new teen," just refuse to buy in to the mentality that everything your kid does is your fault. The author should remember, as a Christian, that God was the perfect parent. Yet His first children made a mess of things anyway at times!
Motomos More than 1 year ago
I was at my wits end with my 6 year old throwing temper tantrums. I had no idea what to do and I read this book. I knew that I was part of the problem and this book helped me to change my actions therefor changingy child's actions. It was very difficult to " say it once and walk away" but once I did that and them followed thru, my child realized there were no more 2,3,4,5 chances. This book really works if you follow thru with it! Some of this book I felt applied to older kids ( like the whole waking the child for school part) but I highly recommend this book!
SeekingSandy More than 1 year ago
There were some very interesting ideas presented. I bought 3 of these books for my kids to use on the grandkids. Wish I'd had something like this when my kids were growing up. Simple, common sense ideas.
Busy__Mom More than 1 year ago
I had to start out with the summary from ParentsDigest.com first because this method seemed too good to be true. And while I have to admit that it doesn't ALWAYS work, it really has made a difference in our household. Less squabbling & tantrums and more communicating. A book well worth reading.
Anonymous 21 days ago
I got ripped off. I paid for the complete nook book and only got the sample! Very disappointed that I paid over $10 and got nothing!
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This is probably the only book I have actually thrown in the trash.  Other people should be saved from reading this book.  If you want to parent with respect for your children, try Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson and don't even spend one more second on this one. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book and the stategies Dr. Leman teaches. It is hard a times, but no one said parenting was going to be easy. I have seen tremendous changes in my 4 year old son.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Let me save everyone time and money by summing up this book for you: " say it once and walk away " ... this is the only advice the author could give... Out of all thelame scenarios given and not elaborated upon, the only solution given was " say it once and walk away"
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